UK families have been warned to ensure they know the rules before using parent and child parking spaces to avoid potential fines.
After some confusion surrounding these spaces in recent months, motoring experts at LeaseCar.uk have issued advice for drivers who wish to take advantage of designated parent and child parking spaces.
The specialists have highlighted the issue after a woman was fined £260 for parking in a supermarket’s parent and child parking space, because she left her ill son sleeping in the car rather than taking him with her to fetch his medication.
These bays are usually closer to the entrance of the shop or facility and often wider, with extra space around them to help families with vehicles full of shopping and children.
But they can often be exploited by lazy shoppers or less confident parkers – particularly if the weather is bad.
The car parks of supermarkets and other major retailers, where the issues surrounding parent and child parking spaces are most prevalent, are usually on private land owned by the relevant company.
As such, the establishments are free to set their own parking rules, such as specifying that a child must accompany the parent from the vehicle to warrant use of the specified space, and enforce them accordingly – including penalties for disobedience.
Failing to closely read and follow the rules of the car park could, therefore, hit Brits in the pocket in the form of a Parking Charge Notice for breaching their parking contract.
Enforcement procedures can often be via cameras that monitor the parent and child spaces and recognise number plates.
Some parking facilities will have dedicated wardens or use store staff members to make sure the rules are being properly observed.
The terms and conditions of a car park vary, but must be clearly displayed on the signs around the car park and include the relevant restrictions along with the potential consequences.
The upper age limit rule for a child accompanying a parent in such a space can also be different from one car park to another, but it is generally up to 12 years old.
There is a grey area around whether heavily pregnant women are allowed to use parent and child spaces, but this should be generally accepted if the pregnancy is visually obvious.
Tim Alcock of LeaseCar.uk said: “Mums and dads will naturally enjoy using parent and child parking spaces that are more comfortable to park in and in an area closer to a shop’s entrance.
“Unfortunately, the rules can be a little more complex than the name suggests and it can be all too easy to get caught out, landing yourself in hot water or taking a hit in the pocket.
“The number one piece of advice if you’re considering using a parent and child parking space is to have your child with you and to take your child with you in-store.
“Our next best guidelines are to read a car park’s signage, note the terms and conditions of using a parking there and then follow the stated rules.
“If you realise you’ve parked improperly, it’s important to move your vehicle to a more appropriate space as soon as possible to avoid being issued with an unnecessary parking charge notice.
“The reverse is also true though, that parents who perhaps didn’t realise they were entitled to use a designated space with their children at their local store, should certainly consider taking advantage of the convenience they provide.
“I would recommend that if you’re not sure of the rules in a particular location and your accompanying child is capable of walking slightly further across the car park, that parking in an alternative space would be the best course of action to take.”